Imagine entering a restaurant without any music. You might hear the plates clanking, the glasses clinking or the loud conversations, but it would feel awkward, even cold. That’s because restaurant overhead music provides more than just background noise. In fact, playing the right music at the right time in a restaurant can enhance customers’ moods and positively alter their buying behaviors.

Today’s restaurant diners are looking for more than just food to eat. They want an experience. The right music establishes an overall atmosphere that can help keep customers in the restaurant longer, spending more money and improving their whole experience and enjoyment. Have you ever stopped your conversation to point out a particular song playing? Many diners have. Philip Kotler, an American marketing author, consultant, and professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University coined the term “atmospherics” way back in 1973. Atmospherics is “the effort to design buying environments to produce specific emotional effects in the buyer that enhance purchase probability.”

Incorporating customizable overhead music and professionally voiced messages into a restaurant’s marketing strategy can influence customer behaviors that ultimately lead to increased sales.

Drive buying behavior

The right music genre at the right volume and the right tempo have been proven to positively impact customer buying behavior. For example, in 1982, Milliman et al. conducted a study in a New York City grocery store investigating the effect of music tempo on shoppers’ buying behaviors. They played slow music, which led to significantly more time spent in the store and a significant increase (32 percent) in gross product sales when compared to behavior that occurred when fast music was playing. Music can also reinforce a restaurant’s brand and put customers in the buying mood.

One strong example of pace affecting business is Tin Drum Asian Cafe in Atlanta. According to the team at Toast, Tin Drum owner Steven Chan carefully chooses the soundtrack overhead music at his 12-plus locations in the southeast.

Chan grew up in Hong Kong and wanted to create a similar vibe to the one he felt wandering through the streets as a boy and stopping at food stalls along the way for dinner. Instead of focusing on songs, he focuses on a feeling and says the sweet spot for a song in his restaurants typically means has around 120 beats per minute. For fast casual restaurants, where the goal is often to move customers through as quickly as possible, faster music is typically better.

Market local promotions

Integrating restaurant messaging into overhead music can be a way to advertise local promotions and highlight unique restaurant offerings. Restaurants can insert custom commercials to play. Examples of overhead messaging could include announcing daily specials, new menu offerings, upcoming holiday events, promotions and even advertise the restaurant is hiring.

And, according to The Gallup Organization, 86 percent of customers say in-store music adds to the atmosphere and influences their purchasing decisions.

The fast-food chain Golden Chick switched from using satellite radio to a customizable music and messaging service. It better enables each franchise the ability to control its music selection and messaging based on its specific customer needs. The restaurant uses the service to broadcast its limited time offers. Also, it also uses the service to highlight local fundraisers and community relations.

And, most importantly, when a restaurant manages its overhead messaging, it means diners will never hear a competitor’s advertisement in its restaurant. Restaurant managers can also use the overhead messaging to thank their loyal customers and encourage them to return again and again.

Enhance experience

Music can create a restaurant environment that is more comfortable and pleasurable for its customers with the goal of keeping diners happily entertained. If they enjoy the music, they will appreciate their dining experience even more, stay longer and spend more money.

Golden Chick also uses overhead music to create a family-friendly environment that matches the restaurant’s goals. By using a customizable overhead music service, Golden Chick is able to control its own music to ensure the songs are appropriate for its family atmosphere.

Entertain diverse customers

Not every customer can agree on their favorite type of music. Some diner demographics may prefer jazz, while other customers favor pop or country music.

Having the ability to create a tailor-made playlist with different artists, genres, and songs can help restaurants customize the type of music played based on what diners want to hear and when they want to hear it.

Restaurant owners can separate playlists based on demographic, time of day, holidays and more.

If a restaurant knows the morning crowd needs a more soothing atmosphere, setting the playlist to soft rock or acoustic music may ease the customers into their busy day.

If the afterschool crowd brings in more school-aged kids and teenagers, playing more current pop music during the afternoon timeframe may be advantageous.

Golden Chick is a franchise with many locations. A customizable overhead music service allows each unit in different parts of the state to tailor its music and playlists based on its own unique demographics. 

As restaurants think through their overhead music strategy, it is also important to ask the overhead music service provider about its licensed music library. The United States copyright law requires business owners playing music to pay royalties to the copyright owners of that music.

Today’s restaurant managers have more tools than ever available to tailor music playlists and incorporate custom overhead messaging into their marketing strategies. Using an overhead music service provider can establish a restaurant atmosphere customers will remember and want to revisit. It can result in a win-win for both restaurant owners and customers. And, satisfied customers are ultimately music to restaurant owners’ ears.

Michael Orell is a marketing and sales professional with 20 years of experience in the industry. His current role at Spectrio is to focus on transforming customer engagement.
Customer Experience, Outside Insights, Story, Michael Orell